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An interview with Keti Zazanashvili, a young adult delegates to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women.  Keti discusses her experience at CSW57 and the role of dance in her work to eliminate violence against women and girls.



The “advanced unedited” version of agreed conclusions on the 57th Commission on the Status of Women have been posted on the CSW57 website and can be found here.  Agreed conclusions were adopted on the CSW57 priority theme, “the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls” on 15 March 2013.

The World Council of Churches (a member organization of Ecumenical Women) delivered an oral statement at the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women on 13 March 2013. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, WCC Associate General Secretary, spoke on behalf of the Council.  Check out a  transcript of the statement below:


The World Council of Churches, a global fellowship of churches with a total membership of 580 million wrote in March 1992 to the Secretary General of the United Nations, “In various international fora, women are urging the United Nations to recognize that violence against women constitutes the violation of the basic human rights of half the world’s population. As Christians we support these initiatives, guided by the firm conviction that all human beings are made in the image of God and deserve protection and care.”

In a statement prepared for the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, the World Council of Churches said:

“It has been painful for us to acknowledge that institutions which should stand in solidarity with women, including governments and the churches, have not often responded with resolute action. We encounter, through our contact with women at the periphery of all our societies, the struggle for dignity and livelihood that women engage in every day. We believe that empowerment is not possible as long as women live in contexts of violence, often exacerbated by cultural and religious tradition.”

It was also said:

“We draw the attention to the liberating power of religions and we affirm the positive and supportive role that the churches and other religious institutions can play in standing in solidarity with those women who have to make ethical choices and decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive rights. But of equal concern to the World Council of Churches is the increasing religious extremism in all faiths and the deleterious consequences this has on women’s legal, political and social rights.”

These statements were made two decades ago, but they are still valid and highly relevant in relation to the work of the Commission on the Status of Women today. Now, more than ever, it is necessary to reiterate that women’s rights are human rights, and that human rights are universal. Traditional values or religious beliefs cannot justify the acceptance of violence against women, nor can they be accepted as limitations on women’s rights and freedom. Women as well as men are created in the image of God and deserve to be respected, protected, and cared for. It is necessary for member states to agree upon and protect strong international frameworks. Civil society, including the faith based community, has an important role to challenge attitudes and traditions that contribute to undermining women’s rights and dignity. We the peoples of the United Nations have a shared responsibility to protect, defend, and expand women’s rights and freedom.

image001by Maria Murerwa, delegate to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.   You can find part one of this post here.
There were so many highlights for me during CSW I find it hard to choice which ones to write about. As a young Rwandan woman, I was so proud to have my country represented and for me to be able to attend their events. Rwanda is doing amazing work in promoting gender equality. Professor Shirley Randell spoke on the “global perspective on violence against women: in the case of Rwanda.” Her presentation focused on education programs that are provided to women, girls, boys and men at the grassroots level about how they should be part of ending GBV. They are educating girls in secondary schools to start to envision and plan for their future at the same time providing literacy programs for illiterate women. Programs like these will help empower women and hence preventing GBV.There have been economic empowering opportunities for women in Rwanda. Before the 1994 genocide, women had to have permission from their husbands to start a business, but today many women especially young women are taking part in entrepreneurial opportunities without the consent of husbands, fathers, bothers. Even though women contribute to the growth of the country and its economy, they still find it hard to get things like loans compared to men, except the paydaynow loans without credit checks. However, I must say that I am so proud of my country and how much has been achieved. The government is very supportive of gender equality in Rwanda; in fact it would have been almost impossible if it wasn’t for the government support and the large group of female legislatures (56 percent). Women are now part of decision making at the local, national, and even global levels.

While most men still wrestle with the concept of gender equality and gender balance, a network of Rwanda “MenEngage” believes that a  “new positive masculine identity is needed, one that does not depend on superiority over women.” I am happy to know that men are getting together to form a movement that is fighting the ideas that lead to GBV.

More on creating positive masculinity, The Men’s Story Project is an organization based in California that works with men on break the silence. When I first hear what this woman was doing was quick to judge because it seemed like it was taking the focus away from the reason we were there, VAW not men. However, the more I listened and with the videos of the men telling their stories, I was so glad that someone was working with me. We saw some videos of men telling their stories through poems, songs acts, and this made them talk about things that might have hurt them when they were children, violence that happened to their mothers, something that may still happen to them or things they have done to others due to social, economic class or sexual orientation. This project is a good reminder to society that violence against women (VAW) does not only affect women, but also their children, and those children can grow up to be violent on other women in their lives.

This was an amazing experience for me. I am very grateful to have been part of it, thanks to the LWF Women in Church and Society desk and the Lutheran Office for World Community for giving me this opportunity and thanks to all the women and men who are working hand in hand to end this horrific epidemic. Violence against women should be eradicated, and it will take girls and boys, women and men working together. Let’s all together break the silence, take a step towards education and don’t let anyone tell you “you can’t” because you are a woman. Together we can…

image001by Maria Murerwa, delegate to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

I have been very blessed this year to attend this commission on the Status of women (CSW 57) and the Ecumenical women orientation and events.  I am always blown away by the people I meet, the work they do, the energy and the fact that most of the women and men come with a common goal of empowering women. This week, I have attended many great NGOs  Parallel events that have been eye opening and hopeful; however there is a still a lot of work to be done in to end gender based violence. I went to so many events that are worth sharing. I will highlight a few which include, ending female genital Mutilation (FGM/FGC), Ending violence against women in Rwanda, and creating positive masculinity (the men’s storytelling project.) This year, the theme is “Ending all Forms of Violence against Women and Girls.” Violence against women is a form of discrimination and a violation of human rights. It cuts lives short, causes women to be silent and leave in tremendous pain and fear everywhere around the world.

This conference brings together women and men from all corners of the world to the United Nations headquarters in New York for two weeks to address and find solutions for issues that affect women. The same time CSW is happening the Ecumenical women join in forces together with CSW.  Many issues are discussed in hopes to find solid solutions for them. Some of the topics but to mention a few included, ending early child marriage, violence in widowhood, ending impunity of sexual violence, violence against women living with disabilities, violence against rural and indigenous women, Military sexual violence, elimination of female genital mutilation (FGM), mental health communities, violence against clergies in the church, violence against aging women, gendercide and many others.

It is unfortunate that at least one out three women worldwide have faced violence.  Women are here to break the silence and find solutions to end violence against women.  This conference serves as a platform for women to break the patriarchal male centered system that is feed by cultural, social and religious practices that exists in most societies.

I attended two separate parallel events that addressed the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM). According to the world health organization (WHO) FGM “comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” One event was on Anti-FGM legislature in African and local communities’ reactions sponsored by the women’s front Norway. This organization is working with the Nyaturu tribe in Northern central Tanzania (Singida area) where Ms. Chiku Ali, one of the panelists grew up. Ms. Chiku has been working on this issue for so many years now in Singida. The Nyakuru tribe practices the right of passage which includes, FGM, tooth extraction and cutting a mark on the forehead.

There have been many declarations to barn this practice since 1967. One famous declaration was the “Arusha declaration” this was followed by so many campaign. The idea was good, but the practices did not stop. People especially the elderly, continued the practice silently when the government used force to stop FGM. When children who were not mutilated got sick, the people believed that it was a curse from the ancestors because they are angry at the authority for stopping FGM.  Ms.Chiku luckily survived this horrendous practice thanks to her father. A devoted Imam who made “a mistake” (as Ms.Chiku jokingly said) to send his young daughter to boarding school. Young Ali asked her grandmother and mother about this practice and why it was important for her to have it, but their answers did not satisfy her. Ali’s best friend died from an infection cause by FGM. This made Ali so upset that she decided to talk about the issue with her father. Ali did not want to go through what her friend had gone through, and so did her father. And so because her father said didn’t permit it, Ali was safe from FGM .

The second event had powerful speakers whose stories were heart sinking, but yet so hopeful for a future without FGM.  For the second event was on FGM / FGC: how to can faith communities help to end it? Sponsored by Mpanzi, 28 Too many, LWF and Tearfund.  I will focus on an amazing woman who is a survivor of FGM and how she is using her voice to break the silence against this practice in her native land Kisii, Kenya. Ms. Jackie Ogega is a co-founder of Mpanzi , an organization based in Kenya which works to promote peace and development in rural African communities through education, women’s empowerment, health and livelihoods. Ms. Ogega is also an author of a new book called Pervasive violence, which was launched on March 8, 2013. This book is about her story as a survivor of FGM. In her remarks, she highlighted the dangers of this practice to a girl/woman’s health. She is not afraid to share her story because she knows that it can help other women tell their stories and be part of ending FGM for the generations to come. Ms. Ogega believes that in order to end this vicious practice, we need education. She thanked her mother for giving her opportunity to education, which helped her not to make the same chose for her teenage daughter.

I found her story very inspiring especially because she is not embarrassed to say it happened to her. So many women would have been very uncomfortable to even talk about this matter because it is so personal. Well she is not, in fact she acknowledges that FGM/FGC is part of her “identity but it does not hold her back” and knowing her it definitely does not define who she is either. I think that her story will inspire other women to tell their stories and advocated to end it. As the saying goes, “charity begins at home,” Ms.Ogega has started with her own daughter by not allowing this practice to happen to her.

FCM/FGC continues to be a form of violence against women around the world and it is time that we broke the silence and we need to bring both girls boys to speak about this. I was especially moved by speech of Nora Muturi Ms. Ogega’s daughter who reminded us that this practice is not only in Africa but even here in America and it takes many forms. I thought that you will be happy to know that a resolution to “Ending female genital mutilation” was passed as of 2012 by the UN General Assembly. So yeah to that…We all have a story to tell, don’t let anyone tell your story because you are who you are and your story is unique because.

IMG_5071A Reflection from the End of CSW Week 1 and International Women’s Day, by Haley Mills, from the Student Christian Movement USA and part of the World Student Christian Federation delegation to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women

Friday ended week one of the 57th Commission on the Status of Women. Appropriately, Friday was also International Women’s Day. A march was held to celebrate this day. Women and men marched bringing human rights theory to life and truths of the power of women to voice. Banners displayed, voices raised, and smiles flashed as rainy snow fell. Simultaneously, in offices and meeting rooms, women and men discussed proposals, language, and strategy. I sat surrounded by smart phones, legal pads, and coffee cups rather than banners, signs, and chants.
I’m willing to admit that I was not sorry to not be in the cold or wet, but I was a little disappointed not to join the visible, palpable camaraderie of so many spirited women and men united to celebrate women. Nevertheless, the work of words comprises an integral component of the CSW. From the words of the resolution (and proposed agreed conclusions) to the words of sacred texts, these writings influence the lives of women across the globe, for better or for worse.

For me, that is why I enter these textual worlds. Diving into the biblical interpretation reveals the work of the Holy Spirit and the ways in which the text as been manipulated. The Bible invites me into the conversation with the God who created this world and the people who have walked with that God. Following the path blazed by of the Communion of Saints requires discernment, humility and community to enter this conversation. Voices from all corners of creation must be joined to see the Spirit working.
In the same way, wrestling with the agreed language cannot be done alone. All voices must be present to ensure the full protection of women and the comprehensive recognition of their rights. I must listen to my sister, whether I fully agree or not. As a Christian delegate, I pray to recognize the liberating work Jesus the Christ at work in the deliberations, discussions, and debriefs continuing to “proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Lk 4:18b-19, NRSV).

by Rosemarie Doucette, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America delegate to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women

Rosemarie DoucetteThere was an awesome energy last week at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women!  Clearly times are changing for the better as issues of inequality, injustice, and violence were brought to light with grace and power.   Women across differences of faith, race, gender identity, ethnicity, and education united in the effort to bring truth and justice to those places where they are most needed.  I was very impressed with the progress made in Mauritania in the movement to end female genital mutilation (FGM).  Putting all girls at risk for their physical health, the deeper psychological damage that is done is often harder to assess and there are few resources for addressing it.  While this is a harmful practice, it is nonetheless an integral part of the tradition of many cultures so its eradication must be approached with sensitivity and options must be introduced.

I was encouraged by the work of speaker Mariem M’Bareck of Mauritania who has worked extensively with both the religious community and health care providers in order to educate and mobilize people from within their own communities instead of alienating them through a campaign waged from outside of their culture.  First Mariem met with a few Imams who established that the Koran does not require FGM of any female, of any age, for any circumstance.  The Imams, respected as wise religious leaders, will educate the people in their communities so that over time the misunderstanding that FGM is a requirement of Islam might be corrected.  The group of Imams who have made this commitment has grown from two to over two hundred.  Health care providers will approach the eradication of FGM from a health standpoint, highlighting the extreme and lifetime health risks involved while teaching women and men that the reasons used to justify it are based on misconceptions, superstitions, and myths.

Another piece of the situation is that the women who perform the cutting will be left without a livelihood.  It is important that their financial and social needs be met by the community because they are most often uneducated and this will be a difficult thing to process, that their service to the community will no longer be needed.

Finally, and perhaps the most uplifting and easiest transformation to make following the eradication of FGM will be to provide young girls with new rituals to mark their passage from babies to young girls and from young girls to young women.  For thousands of years young the passage of boys to young adulthood has been marked by circumcision, preceded and followed by communal celebrations and privileges.  Girls, on the other hand, were more likely to be cut in private and would have to spend even more time in healing.  Their passage to womanhood was generally not celebrated in community.  In the new light of hope, equality, and human rights, communities where FGM is being eradicated are now replacing this practice with healthy ways of celebrating and marking this life passage, thus ensuring better physical and psychological health, and more social equality.

“If a woman can cook so can a man because she doesn’t cook with her womb.”

“What stuck with me is the report that in Kazakhstan, a man is put in jail for 3 years when he rapes o violates a woman, but put in jail for 11 years when he steals a cow. How cheap women are considered! This has to stop!”

“Forgiveness is not words, it is ACTION!”

“If violence against women were a disease, they would have declared it a pandemic.”

A horrible quote from men in Egypt: “When Christian women and widows go into the square, they are raped. They asked for it.”

Thoughts for the CSW: “It is an enlightening experience, but I would be very grateful to see how Ecumenical Women are taking the raised awareness back home and not just finish at the base. We should consider ‘depth’ in all the work that we are doing.”

HBphotoby Hayley Bang, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in American delegate to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women

The day before attending CSW57, I read a news article that stated in 2012, one South Korean woman was killed by her intimate partner per three days. Around 120 women were killed by their intimate partners in one year.

“男尊女卑 女必從夫” has been the key concept for the gender hierarchy of Korea. The first four letters literarily mean men are higher than women, and second half means women must follow or obey their husbands. I was also a victim of this concept which still is exercised unconsciously among Koreans and the first generation of Korean Americans. I always questioned why men and women are not equal and especially questioned about the unfairness about male dominant society where not only men but also women oppressing other women.

So, for me, the opportunity to be in part of CSW57 is a great opportunity to learn about women’s rights on a global scale. I was very nervous and excited about it. I was able to attend different side events and events that led by the Lutheran World Federation and the World Council of Churches, and I learned a lot of new things about different cases of violence against women. I was impressed by the quote that “Women’s Rights = Human Rights.” However, I was sad about the fact that we still talk about women’s rights rather than just human rights, in a sense of gender inequality. It is sad that what gender you are born determines whether you have more rights compared to other gender. It is not limited to one particular area in the world, but it was a global problem. Yes, we are all different, yet women were similarly oppressed by the other gender and also by other women.

However, I do not give up there. I believe in unity in diversity yet variety. I know that we need different approaches to different cultures to end the violence against women. However, we are one and in the same purpose, we are united as one during CSW57. We are shouting and acting together with one voice to end the violence against women. CSW57 was the place to gather those voices together, and act together, yet gave us wisdom and knowledge about how to contextualize in each culture to end the violence against women. Thanks be to God about the people that I met during CSW57, the experiences I had, and more importantly thanks be to God that God is working in us, with us and calling us to be God’s people and to look after each other.

IMG_0068On March 6, Presbyterian Women Aotearoa/New Zealand, Interfaith Worker Justice, Presbyterian Women in the Presbyterian Church (USA), The Presbyterian Church (USA) and Young Women’s Leadership Development, PC (USA) co-hosted a parallel event based on Ecumenical Women’s talking points on structural violence against women.

“Women of faith are reinterpreting the traditional understandings of sacred texts of Christianity to challenge violence condoned and promoted within the church.  What can we learn from such efforts about confronting all forms of institutional violence?”

Women with a variety of perspectives shared stories of experiencing and overcoming institutional violence in the church, workplace, legal system and educational environments.  Attendees were invited to discuss their own stories in small groups and work with presenters to plan action steps to take home.

Read the rest of this entry »

An interview with Annamaria Notaristefano, a young adult delegate to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women. Annamaria discusses her experience at the CSW and the role of dance in their work to eliminate violence against women and girls.

366by Candace L. Strand, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America delegate to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women

Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me.”  As I reflect upon my life as an African American woman who may have been a statistic of domestic violence myself during 1977 to 1983, I give God the glory, honor and praise for my deliverance.  When I think back to that part of my life I know that it could have been worse.  But God and the mercy and grace factor stepped in.

I had two wonderful daughters to raise while I went through the mental and drug abuse situations.  I was married twice.  In the first marriage I was young and ignorant.  There was fighting and an adulterous situation was present.  Sex was often forced. In the second marriage, I came to know the Lord and our relationship went south.  At first the drug issue was a part of my life, but when I became saved my ways changed and my companion’s life did not.  There were women in the home when I was not there in that drug atmosphere during that time. I prayed a lot during that time period of my life.  Life was hard financially and things were cutoff in the home.  My two daughters and I were without heat and electricity during those difficult times in my life.  Yet, I was very spiritual.  This seemed to compensate for the ending of that marriage and that season in my life.

Presently, I am a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I have survived from that sadness and oppression.  I have remarried.  I have been married for seventeen years.  My husband is a Christian.  My daughters are grown and I have five grandchildren.  I feel so blessed. I had to be humble during those years.  I am still humble and I believe that the Lord took me through my adventure for a reason.

So many times life throws stumbling blocks into our path.  I would have never thought that I would have gone the way that those situations locked me into.  I was always a hard worker.  I had several jobs and I was also on welfare at different times too.  But God………..

Oh, but by the way, I did not mention that I am a college graduate with two bachelor degrees. I am presently a senior under the MDiv (Master of Divinity) program at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.  Thank you Lord!  As you can see, life goes on.

What’s next for me?  Well, the leading of the Lord is my guide.  I have learned that weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.  Through disappointments, sorry, pain and love, I have endured hardness as a good soldier.  I have learned that I have to take one day at a time.  Sometimes when I desire to be in a better financial state or be living in a better home or even be rich, I think about Jesus and the life that Jesus lived.  How can I complain?  God is good……Thank you Lord!  As a 58 year old woman I feel stronger and wiser each day.  Women are powerful too!  Peace………

P1000168“The eyes of the world are on us.” – choir at CSW

“Global military spending- $1.7 trillion Is national security spending really protecting individual security?”

“It’s about cost and money! Convince lawmakers and regulators that passing laws to end violence against women and children will save money and resources.” – IWC representative

“Follow the light”

“I walk in the light of the Lord. You are the light of the world- Let your light shine.”

“I am on the Lord’s side. I will never give up. I am an overcomer. The Lord is on my side.”

“So tell your stories of healing.”

“Affirmation brings empowerment.”

“Women’s rights are human rights.”

“Life is a bowl of cheer- that is a mixture of laughter, tears and joy. You are born to die but yet God will embrace you at the doorway.”

“Sisters together, stand together”

“The feeling of the sense of community gives me the strength to be an activist for human rights and to commit myself to advocacy. This experience makes me strong and makes me grow not only spiritually.”

“All of those strong women working together from all over the world, that’s power and that’s hope!”

“If violence against women was considered as a standard for peace, no country would be considered peaceful.”

Delegates from the World Student Christian Federation and the World Council of Churches leading the Ecumenical Women morning worship at the 57th Commission on the Status of Women.

Delegates from the World Student Christian Federation and the World Council of Churches leading the Ecumenical Women morning worship at the 57th Commission on the Status of Women.

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